Why Competition is Good For You

Why Competition is Good For You

I keep seeing Community Over Competition everywhere. People get upset at another photographer for "stealing" a client or undercutting their prices, and go on tangents about how creating community is more important than competing with one another. While I do agree that community is extremely important, (I mean who else is going to listen to us gripe about the industry and let us bounce ideas off of them?) I also believe that competition is healthy for the industry, and for you. 

I'm not saying all competition is healthy, because let's face it, jealousy can turn into some pretty ugly attacks on fellow creatives. I am saying that having to compete with one another, even if it's only silently, is a great way to better ourselves and grow our craft. 

When I first started shooting weddings for myself my main goal was to be better than the rest of the photographers in my area. I don't believe I'm better than anyone else, but I do believe it's helped shape me into what kind of work I put out into the world. The mindset of trying to be better has pushed me to keep learning and to keep growing without becoming complacent with where I am. So, here are five reasons I believe competition is healthy for us in the photography industry. 

1. It makes you set goals for yourself. 

Without my desire to be the best photographer in my market, I likely wouldn't have booked as much as I did in my first year. That goal made me shoot constantly, and made me figure out how to be different enough to make clients interested in booking me. Which is especially hard to do when you're up against people who have been photographers for much longer and consistently produce beautiful work. The main goal I set for myself was how many weddings I wanted to shoot that year. It made me make a plan with how to achieve that goal and I'm happy to say I accomplished it. 

2. It keeps you learning. 

If you're completely fine with where you are as a photographer you aren't going to have the motivation to keep learning. If you're trying to keep up with the competition, you're the one going to workshops or constantly trying new techniques. You'll be online reading informational articles or always shooting to learn your camera a bit better. Constantly learning is key to not becoming complacent and boring. 

3. It will help you develop your "style".

If you want to stand out from the crowd in your area, then your style is going to start defining itself. If you're in a market of all traditional photographers and you find it boring, you'll likely push for a different type of image that will definitely stand out from the crowd. If you want to be more on the traditional side your work will reflect that and you'll start developing your style in that genre. Either way, if you're competing with other photographers you'll find a way to make your style different enough to attract clients.

4. It will help you identify your target market. 

Unless you're into photography solely to make money, you're probably not going to want to book everyone that comes your way. If John Doe only shoots traditional clients and you find it uninspiring, you're going to want to target different people from him. The trick is to figure out exactly what you want to shoot and who you want to shoot. Looking at who and what your competitors are shooting is a great way to learn who you want to target and developing your ideal clients from there. 

5. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't.

If Jane Smith (not a real name or someone I know) is offering a $500 print credit with her packages you'll know pretty quickly if that will work for your business. If it does that's great, it means you can compete with Jane Smith with the same types of packages. Potential clients will have a more diverse market to pick from. If that doesn't work for you, you'll be forced to examine your packages and decide if you need to improve anything to be a competitive player in the market. 

Conclusion

Competition is a healthy part of any industry and shouldn't be discarded as being bad. Instead we should embrace it alongside our community. It's important to realize that you can compete within the community without creating bad blood or tension. Competition is more about developing and improving our own work than it is putting down others. If we remember that then we can use the healthy competition to strengthen the market and continue to grow and learn from one another. 

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5 Comments

Scott Free's picture

Well written article, totally agree. Unfortunately there are some people out there who don't understand that the more successful professional photographers putting out world class work in an area, the wider the exposure to and appreciation of pro photography which means more potential clients in a larger range of fields for everyone.

Deleted Account's picture

Scott, protectionism is definitely the problem and not healthy competition, you just have to look at other industries such as the french railway industry to name but an example.
Although personally I'm no longer so concerned about winning the game, it can still help me to develop my photography visions and goals and the strategies needed to achieve them.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

I think that some of those claims are false ....maybe I am dead wrong but I deeply believe that competition creates more distraction than actually helps us. First of all I don't think that people want to learn more because of the competition. People want to learn because they want to create better images not because they want be better than other photographers. (maybe some do...)

There is only really small group of photographers these who wants to share their knowledge and help others so we could all get better as most of them feel like by sharing their knowledge and expertise that will creates them unwanted competition. I have experienced that many times... so most of us its on our own to learn photography and get better.

Things like expanding your knowledge, developing your style shouldn't be forced by competition .... I think if our approach would be more as team and we would be more collaborative that would be more healthy for us as we would all progress way quicker. So far I see competition creates hate, unfair tactics, tension in the industry and lots more... I also believe that most of us pro photographers need to make money to sustain our business and that how we make a living and that also creates a lot tension on us to make sure we can somehow out beat our competitors ... if this is good for us would like to hear some arguments to support that.

Brandi Potter's picture

You're definitely not wrong about anything. I think whether or not competition is good for someone depends on the actual person. Unhealthy competition can lead to ugliness and attacks on others, but there's nothing wrong with healthy competition. Not everyone deserves a gold star, and putting all your faith into community is not going to pay your bills.

I don't think that these things are being forced by competition, I just think it's a natural part of it. You see others work, and you want to be on their level and to compete with them for their clients. To do that you're going to have to put in the work and learn and grow your style. It's all part of this business.

Besides the photographers that are willing to tell you their secrets want you to pay for it. That's not fostering community.

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